The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the value of public parks and demonstrated a need for increased investment to prepare for the future.
Local parks and open space have seen large increases in usage during the pandemic as residents seek places to exercise and relief from cabin fever. So many people are crowding parks that local officials have had to take action to discourage crowds and keep visitors safe, even going as far as temporarily removing equipment. This poses a question: is there enough open space to accommodate the demand? In a recent opinion piece published in the Baltimore Sun, Emily Ranson, the Maryland State Director of Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund argues that parks are not ready for another wave of visitors, and urges congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The fund uses federal money to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and provides matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. To date the Fund has invested over $231 million in Maryland. Efforts to secure a full $900 million annual appropriation for the fund have stalled during the crisis.
From the article:
The fund is our most important program for expanding outdoor opportunities for everyone. It funds everything from wilderness areas to local ballparks, protecting and improving access to irreplaceable landscapes and cultural heritage sites.
We need to boost access to public spaces and create new ones as an essential part of our economic recovery. We need to make investments today, so we have the space tomorrow. If we do not fund our parks now, the treasured experiences we are seeking will become frustrating ordeals, with long lines of cars to enter parks, inadequate parking, limited or no shuttle service and crowds preventing a peaceful trail experience.
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